Photo: Postoiu Roxana

Szörényvár or Szörénytornya (Romanian: Turnu-Severin; Drobeta; Bulgarian: Северин; Serbian: Дробета-Турн Северин/Drobeta-Turn Severin) is a city in Romania, on the left bank of the Danube, below the Iron Gates. It is 220 km south-east of Temesvár (Timisoara). Here is a video of the area:

Photo: MSClaudiu

The castle was built in a strategic place where the Danube leaves the sub-Mediterranean climate slopes of the Southern Carpathian mountains. Its conquest meant to gain an important bridgehead in the region. The city was called Drobeta by the Romans. Near Szörényvár are the remains of the celebrated Trajan’s Bridge, the largest in the Empire. Here, the Danube is about 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) broad. Built only three years (103–105 AD) by the famous architect Apollodorus of Damascus, the bridge was considered the most daring work in the Roman world. The bridge was built on 20 pillars of stone blocks, and was 1135 m long, 14.55 m wide, and 18.60 m high. It was destroyed by Huns in the 5th century, and it was rebuilt by Justinian I (527-565).

Trajan’s Bridge Across the Danube (Modern Reconstruction)

In the middle of the 3rd century, Drobeta covered an area of 60 hectares and had a population of almost 40,000 inhabitants.
The fortress of Szörény was built by the Kingdom of Hungary under Ladislaus I aka Szent László (1077–1095) as a strategic point against the Second Bulgarian Empire.

The area of the Bánság

King András II of Hungary organized the Banate (Dukedom) of Szörény. The first Ban (Duke) of Szörény, Luca, was mentioned in 1233. In 1247, the Hungarian Kingdom brought the Knights of St. John to the country, giving them Szörény as a residence, where they built a medieval castle. Inside the strong fort, a Gothic church was erected. This was presumably the headquarters of the Catholic episcopate of Szörény that was there until 1502. The knights withdrew in 1259.

Photo: Leontin l

The Wallachian Voivode Litváj wanted to take away the fort in 1272 but he was killed in the battle in trying so. The Hungarian Báns (Dukes) were governing until 1291 but their power was decreasing and the voivodes of Wallachia gradually took over the control. The Hungarians had to concentrate their power on the other side of the Carpathians, in the castle of Miháld.

Photo: Andrei Tosea

King Anjou Károly tried to regain the area in 1330 but he was defeated at the battle of the Pass of Vöröstorony where the Wallachians led him into a trap. It was King Zsigmond aka Sigismund of Luxembourg who could take the Banate of Szörény back in 1419 after having defeated the Turks in Bulgaria. The castle became an important borderland fort against the Ottomans. Zsigmond called the Teuton Knights to help the defenses and they stayed there between 1429 – 1435.

Photo: Leontin-l

King Habsburg Albert appointed the young Hunyadi János in 1439 to control the castles of the Banate of Szörény. Later he became the Voivode of Transylvania and the Governor of Hungary. Szörényvár was part of the southern borderland fort line and was functioning well during the reign of King Matthias Hunyadi, too.

Photo: Leontin-l

Its decline began during the Jagiellonian kings in the 16th century who neglected the southern castles which were gradually taken by the Turks. Then it was seized by the Ottoman Empire in 1524. Szörény was under Ottoman rule until 1829 except Wallachian occupation between 1594 and 1599 and the Austrian one between 1718 and 1738.

Photo: Leontin-l

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Photo: Leontin-l

Here are a few more pictures of Szörényvár Castle: